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Short Story: Homecoming
by seftiri (seftiri)
at May 8th, 2006 (06:28 pm)
Playing on the Mood Swings:: accomplished
What Euterpe is Playing:: John Fogerty--Centerfield

This short story was written in response to an assignment given me by Tiff.

My prompts were to use the words 'share' and 'match', to have it located on a small pier, and to have someone say "What would they say?"  This is a first draft of the result. 

I believe the piece can be expanded quite a lot and have requested that it be put back into rotation for me to expand later.  I will post all additional versions of it here for review.

If you have any constructive criticism for me on this one, please share it.  I welcome the opportunity to improve my writing.


Denny Pastor sat at the edge of the lake by her parents' house.  Sat with the plain-wrapped box on the weathered teak bench that her father had built for her mother just a few short years before the colon cancer took him.  The years of sun and rain since the last of his hammer blows had made the teak soft to the touch, like moleskin, but strong, too.  She knew she could leave it there for many more years to come--under fire and wind, hail and frost--and find it just as it was today.  However, at the end of her father's life even the softest Spring rain had chilled him, his bones left unprotected under his wasted body.  The Summer sun failed to warm him.  A once stout giant of a man had crumbled into dust at half his natural weight, gnarled and brittle and broken.

The day Charles Pastor died was also the day that Denny's mother had disowned her, barring her even from attending the funeral.

Denny's lover at the time, a sweet, child-like woman named Sarah who drew stray kittens and needy, broken people to her the way iron drew lightning from  the sky, had snarled--actually snarled--that Joan Pursley Pastor had no right to keep Denny from her father's funeral.  When all was said and done, though, Denny had stayed away, she and Sarah marking the day quietly in their tiny Beacon Hill apartment, hundreds of miles away, reading from Rilke's Letter to a Young Poet and Millay's Renascence.  Denny'd also drunk half a fifth of really good Scotch and had sobbed in the shower until the last of the hot water had trickled to a stop.

Now, fifteen years later, her mother was dead.  Dead and in a box. 

This box, she thought, absently fingering the brown wrapping on the sturdy cube of pressboard that held her mother's ashes.  The scandalized mortician had twisted his narrow lips in a disapproving frown when she'd declined his offers of "an elegantly understated urn, possibly in pewter or perhaps titanium?"  No, she'd told him.  The box was just fine.  One couldn't improve upon perfection.

"Has it really been fifteen years since you were here last, honey?"  Chen Ming-Yue rested her hand on Denny's knee as she sat next to her on the bench. 

"Fifteen years and a few months.  Yeah."  Denny looked out over the lake at the clouds massing over the Blue Ridge mountains.  "I grew up here."  She turned away from the threatening skies and looked back toward the white Queen Anne she had once considered taking a match to, wanting the place to burn like the anger and grief that had given her an ulcer at the tender age of twenty-six.  Pointing to a shuttered window on the second floor, she added, "That was my room."

Ming-Yue shook her head slightly.  It was the only window that was shuttered.  The rest were open to the sun and the sky, to the water and the mountains.

Inside, where she'd been wandering for the last hour or so, the house was a veritable shrine to Charles Pastor but there was not one shred of evidence that Denara Pastor had ever set foot in the house.  Not a single photograph, not a diploma or letter, nothing. 

"It's a beautiful house," she said.  And it was.  Mahogany and tiger maple, cherry wood and pewter.  Persian rugs she suspected had been hand woven when there still was a "Persia" on the map.  Leaded crystal imported from Ireland.  Tastefully chosen artworks done by tastefully chosen artists.

"It always was.  It had its fair share of darkness though.  Until my father died, I didn't realize how much he protected me from my mother's...  What do I call it?  Hatred?  Homophobia?  It seems so small now."  She stood and gathered up the box of her mother's ashes.  They were heavier than she thought they'd be.  She wondered if her mother's eternal disappointment could still have that much heft.  After a moment's deliberation, Denny reached out a hand for Ming-Yue. 

Hand in hand, they walked to the end of the rickety pier that jutted out into the lake.  Denny chuckled at the definition.  She'd always felt calling the body of water a lake was a testament to the locals who called it that.  It was really wasn't anything but a puddle with delusions of grandeur.

"Are you really going to throw her in?"  Eight years together made it easy for Ming-Yue to say what was on her mind.  She rarely beat around the bush.  She preferred a direct approach; the Zen archery of the spoken word.

"You mean with a rock tied around her neck, condemned to the bottom of this overgrown sinkhole for eternity?  No."  Denny turned to gaze into Ming-Yue's iron-black eyes.  "I want to; I won't lie to you.  But no."

"Then what?"

Denny sighed.  "I'm going to have her buried next to my father in the family plot.  They belong together, they really do.  He tempered her and she kept his life interesting, right up to the end.  Daddy just had no illusions about Human sexuality.  And Mother was a Southern Baptist."  She shrugged.

"What about the house?  It's yours now."

The clouds over the mountains were darker now and Denny thought she and Ming-Yue might be treated to what Southerners called a Summer Squall; an afternoon thunderstorm that sometimes made the sky green, like the murky bottom of the lake.  On occasion there might even be hail.  Shards of winter stabbing into the water.

"I'm keeping it," she said softly.  "We're keeping it.  It's a good house.  A strong house.  It deserves to be lived in.  Happily."

Ming-Yue smiled.  "What would they say?" she asked. 

But Denny didn't answer.  What would who say?  The birds?  The trees?  The unblinking eye of the Sun?

Kingfishers sewing storm clouds to matching shades of water cried their piercing calls and flew away.

Erin M. Hoagland
First Draft
Sunday, 05/07/06


Posted by: shay (shaych_03)
Posted at: May 15th, 2006 11:09 pm (UTC)

i like this. shades of melancholy and ashes, with just the right touch of hope.

one point: first paragraph, you use the word "years" three times in a row. other than that, everything flowed well.

Posted by: seftiri (seftiri)
Posted at: May 15th, 2006 11:44 pm (UTC)
All Smiles

Thanks! I didn't even notice that!

I'll fix it in the next version.

Thank you for reading.

Posted by: shay (shaych_03)
Posted at: May 15th, 2006 11:51 pm (UTC)

no problem. sorry it took so long to respond... first there was Beltane 40th Ann. Event, then there was the Cold From Hell. my chest feels like an elephant did a tap show in five step on it. :/